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Israel: Criminalization of Incitement of Volunteer Soldiers to Defect

(July 28, 2016) On July 12, 2016, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the Penal Law (Amendment No. 127) (Incitement of Defection of a Person Who Volunteered for an Armed Force) 5776-2016. (Amendment No. 127, SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, the official gazette, SH] 5756 No. 2561, p. 140, as amended, Knesset website (last visited July 25, 2016) (in Hebrew).)  The Amendment Law amends the Penal Law 5737-1977.  (SH 5736 No. 864, p. 226, as amended (in Hebrew).)

Section 109(B) of the Penal Law prohibits inciting, procuring, or assisting “a person serving in an armed force to desert his service or a military operation.”  The Penal Law imposes a penalty of seven years of imprisonment for violating this prohibition.  The Amendment Law extends the prohibition and the penalty imposed to inciting, procuring, or assisting in a defection that targets a person who has volunteered to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).  (Amendment No. 127, supra.)

Explanatory notes for the Amendment Law draft bill state that the amendment was “designed to emphasize the importance of volunteering for military service and takes a clear position against the phenomenon of social condemnation that volunteers from certain communities are forced to deal with.”  (Penal Law (Amendment No. 127) 5776-2016 (Incitement of or Enticement to Defection of a Person Who Volunteered for an Armed Force) 5776-2016, Knesset Draft Bill No. 642 p. 130 (last visited July 25, 2016) (in Hebrew).)

According to Jonathan Alkhuri, a spokesman for the Christian Community Forum, and Shaadi Halul, the Chairman of a Christian Armenian association, the draft bill was initiated by the Christian community but was equally important to other minorities in Israel, such as the Bedouin and the Druze.  The bill was intended to protect IDF volunteers, including non-Jewish volunteers who are not subject to the mandatory draft, who themselves or whose family members are exposed to incitement, threats, and persecution after it is disclosed on social media or by other means that the volunteers joined the IDF.  (Penal Law (Amendment No. 127) 5776-2016 (Incitement of or Enticement to Defection of a Person Who Volunteered for an Armed Force) 5776-2016, Hearing of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee (July 6, 2016) (in Hebrew).)